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Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B – February 22, 2009

Scripture Readings
First : Isaiah 43: 18-19, 21-22, 24b-25
Second : 2 Corinthians 1:18-22
Gospel : Mark 2: 1-12

Prepared by: Fr. Stephen Dominic Hayes, OP

1. Subject Matter
• This Sunday's Gospel tells the story of Jesus healing of the paralytic, whose friends
managed to get him in front of Jesus in spite of the crowd. A number of lessons can be
learned from this Gospel; the first being the importance of persistence as a virtue in
Jesus's eyes; when faced with an obstacle -- the huge crowd which prevents them from
coming close to Jesus, -- his friends take the seemingly outrageous step of ripping up the
roof. As in last week's account of the leper healed by Jesus, the Lords personal
presence, his touch, is the agent of healing. The body of Christ is presented as the place
where divine power is work, and from which healing flows into the world.
• This Gospel also presents us with a discussion on the power of forgiving sins. Sin, as an
offense against God, can only be forgiven by the one against whom the offense is made.
Jesus dares is to forgive sins, a fact which implies his divine identity which is still hidden
at this moment in his public ministry. In Mark's Gospel his identity as the son of God is
not revealed openly until the moment of the Cross. The invisible healing of the paralytic 's
sins is accompanied by the healing in his body; in different ways the two healings
manifest the divine power at work in Jesus Christ.
2. Exegetical Notes
• The first reading for this Sunday is drawn from the second part of Chapter 43 of the
prophet Isaiah. Several verses have likewise been dropped in the present reading to
emphasize the key idea of the passage. The first part of Chapter 43 recalls the great
deeds which God did for Israel in ancient times and uses the form of a lawsuit in order to
summon Israel to account for its failure to respond him in love. The second section,
which is the subject of today's reading, takes a completely new tack and instructs Israel to
forget its past! Rather the people are to look to what the Lord is accomplishing now
coming in the present age. The original historical address the text is to the restoration of
Israel in its own place after the destruction of the Temple in Babylon; the sacrifices of old,
which Israel was so proud are gone the Temple is gone. Avoid nevertheless promises a
restoration and a new work, a "path through the desert" which will renew and refresh the
nation. But does this not because of Israel's goodness, but in despite of its sins, which the
Lord complains ”weary” him in a way analogous to Israel complains of being "wearied" by
the burden of God's law. In terms of messianic prophecy, this points to the new shape of
grace which appears in Jesus Christ, and in the context of the gospel, the refreshment
and healing from sin and evil which appear in the new rivers of baptismal grace which
flow from the side of the Savior.
• In this Sunday's selection near the beginning of 2 Corinthians, St. Paul emphasizes the
fundamental connection with the divine truth at work in Jesus Christ and the “Amen” to
the will of his which was the shape of his life. This same spiritual connection exists
between the faith and deeds of anyone who truly possesses Christ; and Paul presents
himself as an example of this. The possession of the Spirit nof Christ Paul described as a
triple effect: first, an anointing in power, secondly the Spirit’s imprinting of his "seal" that
marks us as Christ's own, and thirdly the pledge of future blessings, for which the
possession and enjoyment of the Spirit's gifts is a kind of down payment pointing to our
enjoyment of greater goods yet be enjoyed in the age to come .
• The second chapter of Mark's gospel begins a new movement in the construction of the
evangelist's account of Jesus life. In Chapter 1, the healing power of Jesus Christ is
manifested, and his mission and identity revealed, though in a hidden way; in Chapter 2
we begin a series of incidents in which Christ's teaching and authority is opposed by the
religious establishment. The first of these is that the present Gospel: the healing of a
paralyzed man whose friends eagerly bring him to Jesus for healing, but are unable to
approach him on account of the crowd. Desperate to present him to Christ who healing,
they climb upon the roof of the house where Jesus is staying, then tear it open. They then
lower their friend on his palette through the roof directly in front of Jesus. This outrageous
behavior Jesus does not criticize, but rather praises their diligence in seeking healing
from him. There is a double moment in this Gospel; the story of the healing is interwoven
with the negative reaction of the scribes to Jesus claimed to forgive sins, and Jesus own
response to this.
• Jesus praises the faith of the man who bring the paralytic to him, and for their actions
show the true nature of faith. A faith which saves is not merely an intellectual assent to
truth a basis for action; and it will break what every barrier is necessary to come to Christ;
to come into contact with him. The faith of the paralytic friends demands that they put him
before Jesus physically, but the Lords touched my heal him, and they let no boundaries
stand in their way- literally bringing down the roof over the heads of the apostles so that
their friend might be cured. This kind of faith is life-changing, and precisely the kind of
faith that Jesus seeks.
• The second part of the narrative, which deals with the power to forgive sins, is intimately
connected with the use of the term "Son of Man". This title of Christ, repeated in verses
10 and 28, belongs properly to Christ humanity, as the promised son of Abraham, the air
of David, and the successor of Moses prophesied in the book of Numbers. Since only
God can forgive sin, since it is an offense and insult properly against the Creator himself,
for Jesus to forgive sins means that he has authority over sin and that authority is divine.
This is not a prophet speaking in the name of God, as Nathan did with David, (“..,God has
forgiven your sin, you shall not die.” - Samuel 12:13.)
• The scribes grumble against Jesus because they think he blasphemes; it is inconceivable
to them than he actually has the power to forgive sins, which is divine. The use of the
words "authority" and "Son" by Jesus implies a personal equality with God which seems
to add blasphemy to blasphemy. Jesus tries to correct their error by asking which is
easier, to heal the visible body or the invisible soul. One could argue that the soul is
harder to cure, since only God and not man can cure it; mom might make the argument
that it is easier to claim at least to heal the soul, for there is no visible change in such a
healing, whereas it would be necessary to see such in the healing of the body. Jesus then
cures the man both visibly and invisibly; if he were a blasphemer, God would not reward
the blasphemy with a cure; if on the other hand Jesus is truly from God, then he also
possesses, extraordinarily, the authority to himself heal not just the body but also the soul.
3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church
• CCC 430: Jesus means in Hebrew: "God saves." At the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel
gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his
mission. Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal son made
man, "will save his people from their sins." In Jesus, God recapitulates all of his history of
salvation on behalf of men.
• CCC 690: Jesus is Christ, "anointed," because that Spirit is his anointing, and everything
that occurs from the incarnation on derives from this fullness. When Christ is finely
glorified, he can in turn send the Spirit from his place with the father to those who believe
in him: he communicates to him his glory, that is, the Holy Spirit who glorifies him. …
• CCC 1441: Only God forgives sins. Since he is the son of God, Jesus says of himself,
"The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sin" and exercises this power: "your
sins are forgiven." Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to
exercise in his name.
• CCC 1441: in parting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives
him the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their
task is expressed most notably in Christ psalm were to Simon Peter: "I will give you the
keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." “The office of binding and
loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the College of the apostles united
to its head.” (Tertullian, De Paenitentiae 4,2)

4. Patristic Commentary
• The Venerable Bede (On the Gospel of Mark): it may indeed be seen, much each
person's own fate ways with God, when that of another had such influence that the whole
man at once rose up, healed body and soul, and by one man's merit, another should have
his sins forgiven him.
• The Venerable Bede (On the Gospel of Mark): Moreover, the Lord being about secure
the man of the palsy, first loosed chains of his sins, in order to show that he was
condemned to the loosening of his joints, because of the bonds of his sins, and could not
be healed to the recovery of his limbs, unless these were first loosened.
• The Venerable Bede (On the Gospel of Mark): core remit sin by those also to whom he
has assigned the power or were missing, and therefore Christ is proved to be true God,
for he is able to remit sins as God.
• (Attributed to Cyril of Alexandria in the Catena Aurea of St. Thomas Aquinas): now
they accuse him of blasphemy, anticipating the sentence of his death: for there was a
command in the law that whoever blasphemed should be put to death.
• Theophylact ( in the Carena Aurea) : But though their thoughts were laid bare, they still
remain insensible, refusing to believe that he who knew their hearts could forgive sins,
wherefore the Lord proves to them the cure of the soul by that of the body, showing the
invisible by the visible, that which is more difficult by that which is easier, although they
did not look upon it as such. For the Pharisees thought it more difficult to heal the body,
as being more open to view; but the soul more easy to cure, because the cure is invisible;
so that they reasoned thus, Lo, he does not heal the body, but heals the unseen soul; if
he had had more power, he would have at once cured the body, and not have fled for
refuge to the unseen world. The Savior, therefore, showing that he can do both, says,
Which is the easier? As if he said, I indeed, by the healing of the body, which is in reality
more easy but appears to you more difficult, will prove to you the health of the soul, which
is really more difficult.
• The Venerable Bede (On the Gospel of Mark): Or else, the sick man is let down after the
roof is opened, because, when the Scriptures are laid open to us, we arrive at the
knowledge of Christ, that is, we descend to his lowliness, by the dutifulness of faith. But
by the sick man being went down with his bed, is meant that Christ should be known by
man, while yet in the flesh. But by rising from the bed is meant the soul's rousing itself
from carnal desires, in which it was lying in sickness. To take off the bed is to bridle the
flesh itself by the bands of continence, and to separate it from earthly pleasures, through
the hope of heavenly rewards. But to take up the bed and go home is to return to
Paradise. Or else the man, now healed, who had been sick now carries back home his
bed, when the soul, after receiving remission of sins, returns, even though encompassed
with the body to its internal watch over itself.
• St. Gregory of Nyssa (De Spiritu Sancto, 16 PG (Migne) PG 45, 1321A-B.) The notion of
anointing suggests.. that there is no distance between the Son and the Spirit. Indeed, just
as between the surface of the body and the anointing with oil neither reason nor
sensation recognizes any intermediary, so the contact of the Son with the Spirit is
immediate, so that anyone who would make contact with the Son by faith must first
encounter the oil by contact. In fact there is no part that is not covered by the Holy Spirit.
That is why the confession of the Son' s Lordship is made in the Holy Spirit by those who
receive him, the Spirit coming from all sides to those who approach the Son in faith.
5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars
• Faith and the justice which flows from the authentic charity which is faith’s companion
cannot be separated. Anthony of Montesinos put it bluntly to his congregation of Spanish
merchants and adventurers on the Sunday before Christmas in the year 1511: quote you
are no better than Moore's and Turks, you who starve and beat and froth and oppress the
Indians! I cannot promise you salvation anymore than I could promise it to the Moore's
and Turks." Called again to speak to the same congregation on the following Sunday,
Anthony said, "I speak for all my brethren; you will hold Indian slaves and mistreat them
will henceforth be refused absolution in the confessional, one does not give absolution to
unrepentant highway robbers. Neither shall we gave it to you.”
• A common motif in the lives of the Saints is how one saint draws another person to God,
and that person in turn becomes a saint., once they have themselves met Christ.
Perhaps the most famous example of this is the role of St. Stephen the first martyr related
in the Acts of the Apostles. The young Rabbi Saul, who became St. Paul the Apostle,
attended and approved of Stephen’s stoning by the mob; he was among those for whom
Stephen prayed for forgiveness.. it was after this that Paul himself met the risen Christ on
the road to Damascus and was converted from his persecution of Christianity to become
its foremost preacher to the Gentiles. In this we see the same motif in the Gospels where
a person has to be brought to Christ by others to find the healing that he needs.
• A second story quite like this is the story of the man who murdered St. Peter of Verona,
the first martyr of the Dominican order. A petty criminal named Carino was hired by
Waldensians heretics to murder the holy Dominican preacher and inquisitor. Carino met
Peter on the road with single Dominican companion, rather Dominic of Lombardy. He
murdered both men with a billhook. Arrested, Carino was able to escape from jail by the
connivance of wealthy men who were happy to see the inquisitor dead. After some
adventures, he ended sick, penniless, and terrified knocking at the door of the Friars of
Forli. Since Carino was near death, the brothers sent to the Dominican church next door
for a priest; and at the sight of the white habit of the man he murdered, Carino broke
down entirely and confessed his guilt. But this is also became the moment of his
conversion. Amazingly, Carino entered the house of Forli and became a religious known
for his humility, religious observance, and deep love for the Blessed Sacrament. He died
in 1293, confessing again on his deathbed his murder of St. Peter and begging to be
buried as a criminal in common murderer in unconsecrated ground with the other
criminals. When news of this got around the town, the citizens got together and
purchased the local potter’s field and gave it to the Dominicans as the burying ground for
the man that they had grown to consider a local Saint.
6. Quotes
• Pope Benedict XVI (What It Means to Be a Christian, p. 75.) … What faith basically
means is just that this shortfall but we all have in our love is made up by the surplus of
Jesus Christ's love, acting on our behalf. He simply tells us that God himself is poured
out among us a superabundance of his love and has thus made good in advance all our
deficiency. Ultimately, faith means nothing other than admitting that we have this kind of
short fault; it means opening our hand and accepting a gift.
• Pope Benedict XVI (God and the World, pp.61-62.) Faith is not just a system of
knowledge, things we are told; at the heart of it is a meeting with Jesus. This meeting
with Jesus, among all those other meetings we have need of, is the truly decisive one. All
our other meetings leave the ultimate goal unclear, where we are coming from, where we
are going. At our meeting with him the fundamental light dawns, by which I can
understand God, man, the world, mission, and meaning-and by which all the other neat
things fall into place.
• Pope Benedict XVI (Co-Workers of the Truth, p. 139.) True forgivnessis something quite
different from weak indulgence. Forgiveness is demanding and requires both parties, the
one who forgives and the one who is forgiving, to do so with all their minds and hearts. A
Jesus who sanctions everything is a Jesus without the cross, for such a Jesus would not
need the torment of the cross to save mankind. As a matter of fact, the Cross is being
increasingly banished from theology and reinterpreted as just a vexatious mischance or a
purely political event. The Cross as reconciliation, as a means of forgiving and saving, is
incompatible with a certain modern mode of thought. Only when the relationship between
truth and love is rightly comprehended can the Cross be comprehensible in its true
theological depth. Forgiveness has to do with truth. That is why it requires the Son' s
cross and our conversion. Forgiveness is, in fact, the restoration of truth, the renewal
bean, and the vanquished length of the lives that lurk in every sin; sin is by nature a
departure from the truth of one's own nature and, by consequence, from the truth of the
Creator God.
7. Other Considerations
• In the course of preparing the last few weeks of sermons, we has been emphasized
the power of God at work in Jesus healing and f freeing from the power of the devil the
people he has come to save. "Saving" and "healing" are the same verb in Greek;
“sozein”. The healing power flows from the body of Jesus; in the life of the Church
after Pentecost, there is going to be an ecclesiastical dimension and the notions of the
Body of Christ and of salvation. The ascended and risen Lord touches his people
through the sacraments, in a very direct and personal way especially in Baptism (the
instrumentality of the water of Christ's baptism which has become the vehicle of our
own, as we bathe in the same waters which bathed his most sacred Body) and in, of
course, the most holy Eucharist, and a sacrament which actually contains that saving
Body and Blood which cast out disease and demons and in whose presence sin and
sinners are healed. Christ heals by his touch in the Scriptures; this touch is made
concrete and present for us in his sacraments.
• Through the name of Jesus, we can in prayer make a completely personal approach
to Jesus, as did the paralyzed man and his friends. This proper name, the holy name
of Jesus, which actually means "God saves", puts us spiritually before the One when
we call upon him by the name given to us for our salvation and the forgiveness of our
sins.

Recommended Resources
Benedict XVI, Pope. Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI. Yonkers, Copyright
Ignatius Press/ Magnificat 2006. New York: Magnificat: SAS, 2006.

” Ibid., What It Means to Be a Christian. Henry Taylor, trans. Originally published in German in
1965 In Munich by Köel Verlag, Munich. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005.

Brown, Raymond E., S.S., Fitzmeyer, Joseph, S.J., and Murphy, Roland E., O. Carm. The
Jerome Biblical Commentary. Two Vols. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.,
1968.

Harrington, Daniel J, S.J. The Gospel of Mark. Sacra Pagina Series, Vol. 2: John R. Donahue,
S.J., and Daniel J Harrington, S. J., eds. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991.

Thomas Aquinas, St. Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected out of the
Works of the Fathers. Volume III- Pt. II: St. Luke. Albany, N.Y.: Preserving Christian Publications,
Inc., 2001.